Tag Archives: Fandom

A Viewing Guide for Star Trek: The Next Generation

With the airing of the final season of Star Trek: Picard, my ranking of all the Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) episodes is getting a steady amount of traffic.

So going from the viewing guide for one of the least watched series in the franchise, Enterprise, let’s go to a Trek series that still ranks as the most watched… and based on feedback is clearly one of the most beloved.

Much like many of the Trek series, TNG takes a while to find its footing. A great documentary that details some of the specific reasons of how the show changed over time is Chaos on the Bridge. Directed by William Shatner (yes, Captain Kirk himself). I’m given to understand it’s not the first to delve into the dirt behind TNG’s growing pains, but it comes across as even-handed and, importantly, explains why the storytelling style shifted so noticeably in the third season.

That style, which focuses on character arcs amid the familiar Trek explorations of ideas is what made fans tune in week after week by the millions. We also waited one long summer between seasons three and four thanks to one of the best cliffhangers in TV history.

For those of you encountering the TNG crew for the first time or the first time in a long time, I am sure you’ll find episodes that stay with you long after the end credits. The best of Trek is engineered to age well, and, yes, some of the space clothes may seem a bit too 80s or 90s at times, but overall the stories are strong.

I should pause and point out this viewing guide is not for everyone. I am sure there are TNG fans who are completionists. They do not want to miss the tiniest character moment — and skipping episodes, including episodes they themselves find underwhelming, would prompt a Picard-style speech about duty. If that rings true, this guide is not for you. In fact, I daresay you will find it logical to live long and prosper elsewhere.

This viewing guide is for the fans who want an abbreviated binge watch. It cuts down on turkeys and subpar episodes that don’t contribute to big character moments or major payoff later. It’s also a guide for those fans who want to introduce new viewers to TNG the same way you might introduce a friend to a band you love: not with every song from every album from the beginning, but with a curated playlist. If these new viewers find they absolutely love the show, those “deep cuts” are there for a rewatch.

For younger viewers or people who haven’t watched older TV shows in while, remember that TNG does not match the newer series, and indeed most modern “prestige television,” in two key ways.

First, it adheres to a notion of the Status Quo common to countless shows prior to the 21st Century: no matter how big the plot developments are or how they might affect our characters, they’ve not going to change much. The very nature of the show visiting a new planet almost every episode means last week’s episode (and planet) and its problems are firmly in the past with no impact on this week’s planet.

Second, there’s going to be a lot of planets to visit. Each season has 26 episodes, an amount that would make modern line producers an aneurysm. In other words, you can leave many a subpar episode in the Briar Patch of Meh.

If we count all the double-sized episodes as two, we have 182 installments of TNG. This viewing guide cuts out 80, giving you a much leaner, more manageable 102 episodes to warp through.


Season One

  • #s1&2 – “Encounter at Farpoint”

Just the series premiere, you ask? Yes, really. In fact, I’d love to skip straight to season 3, but since this is a binge watch, there’s crucial payoff in the series finale that require that you Vulcan up and watch this not-best-of-Trek-series-premieres. Reflections on the now missing Tasha Yar are far more interesting in later episodes, so don’t worry about why she’s missing in season two. Plus consider the bright side: in a completionist rewatch, you have Klingon building toys, Romulan courtesy calls, and exploding heads to look forward to!

Season Two

  • #3 – “Elementary, Dear Data”
  • #9 – “Measure of a Man”
  • #16 – “Q Who?”

I debated including “Elementary, Dear Data” but it does set up one of the best later episodes and, presumably, will connect to Star Trek: Picard. It also preps you for the myriad “holodeck hijinks” episodes. The other two episodes set up events not only for TNG, but for a lot of the Trek series in the future, so they’re in.

Season Three

  • #2 – “The Ensigns of Command”
  • #3 – “The Survivors”
  • #4 – “Who Watches the Watchers”
  • #6 – “Booby Trap”
  • #7 – “The Enemy”
  • #8 – “The Price”
  • #9 – “The Vengeance Factor”
  • #10 – “The Defector”
  • #11 – “The Hunted”
  • #12 – “The High Ground”
  • #13 – “Deja Q”
  • #15 – “Yesterday’s Enterprise”
  • #16 – “The Offspring”
  • #17 – “Sins of the Father”
  • #18 – “Allegiance”
  • #19 – “Captain’s Holiday”
  • #20 – “Tin Man”
  • #22 – “The Most Toys”
  • #23 – “Sarek”
  • #24 – “Ménage à Troi”
  • #26 – “The Best of Both Worlds” (Part 1)

Now we’re getting to the good stuff. You can watch most of the season without a cringe — and, in fact, fans of Barclay or those into all things Holodeck will want to add episode #21, “Hollow Pursuits.” Other than that, you’re probably more than ready to check out the season four premiere — especially because you don’t have to wait all summer!

Season Four

  • #1 – “The Best of Both Worlds” (Part 2)
  • #2 – “Family”
  • #3 – “Brothers”
  • #6 – “Legacy”
  • #7 – “Reunion”
  • #8 – “Future Imperfect”
  • #9 – “Final Mission”
  • #11 – “Data’s Day”
  • #12 – “The Wounded”
  • #13 – “Devil’s Due”
  • #14 – “Clues”
  • #15 – “First Contact”
  • #16 – “Galaxy’s Child”
  • #17 – “Night Terrors”
  • #18 – “Identity Crisis”
  • #19 – “The Nth Degree”
  • #20 – “Qpid”
  • #21 – “The Drumhead”
  • #22 – “Half a Life”
  • #24 – “The Mind’s Eye”
  • #25 – “In Theory”
  • #26 – “Redemption” (Part 1)

A few more episodes snipped from this season, but some absolutely great episodes. Dr. Crusher fans may want to add back #23 “The Host” which uses the sci-fi setting to have some great moments regarding relationships.

Season Five

  • #1 – “Redemption (Part 2)
  • #2 – “Darmok”
  • #3 – “Ensign Ro”
  • #4 – “Silicon Avatar”
  • #5 – “Disaster”
  • #s7&8 – “Unification”
  • #9 – “A Matter of Time”
  • #12 – “Violations”
  • #13 – “The Masterpiece Society”
  • #14 – “Conundrum”
  • #15 – “Power Play”
  • #17 – “The Outcast”
  • #18 – “Cause and Effect”
  • #19 – “The First Duty”
  • #21 – “The Perfect Mate”
  • #23 – “I, Borg”
  • #24 – “The Next Phase”
  • #25 – “The Inner Light”
  • #26 – “Time’s Arrow” (Part 1)

20 all-around solid episodes.

Season Six

  • #1 – “Time’s Arrow” (Part 2)
  • #4 – “Relics”
  • #6 – “True Q”
  • #7 – “Rascals”
  • #s10&11 – “Chain of Command”
  • #12 – “Ship in a Bottle”
  • #14 – “Face of the Enemy”
  • #15 – “Tapestry”
  • #s16&17 – “Birthright”
  • #18 – “Starship Mine”
  • #19 – “Lessons”
  • #21 – “Frame of Mind”
  • #23 – “Rightful Heir”
  • #24 – “Second Chances”
  • #25 – “Timescape”
  • #26 – “Descent” (Part 1)

Right around season five and six, you might decide to just watch ’em all, but I’m committed to cutting out the subspace bumps, so here you go.

Season Seven

  • #1 – “Descent” (Part 2)
  • #s4&5 – “Gambit”
  • #6 – “Phantasms”
  • #8 – “Attached”
  • #10 – “Inheritance”
  • #11 – “Parallels”
  • #12 – “The Pegasus”
  • #15 – “Lower Decks”
  • #16 – “Thine Own Self”
  • #19 – “Genesis”
  • #20 – “Journey’s End”
  • #21 – “Firstborn”
  • #24 – “Preemptive Strike”
  • #s25&26 – “All Good Things…”

You definitely want to skip a number of episodes here. Some fans find #23 “Emergence” to be a meta-commentary on the series itself, but the actual series finale “All Good Things…” brings it home as good as any Trek series has.

So there you have it: a way to dive in and boldly go on adventures with the inimitable TNG crew without spending over 100 hours of your time. Enjoy!

First Contact Day, T-Minus 42 Years

Still from Star Trek: First Contact, released 25 years ago

Since I did a post this past September about the “Star Trek Day” panels last September, I figured I’d post it here — and for those of you who can, perhaps you’d like to see some of them live.

I’m not sure if CBS/Paramount plan to make this a regular thing or if this was done, in part, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the film Star Trek: First Contact. The action begins at 12 noon Pacific.

Although one of the big news items was that Q will be in season two of Picard, I have to confess, I felt it’d be surprising if he wasn’t in the series eventually. Don’t get me wrong, I was pleased to hear it — and since Guinan should be in the season as well, perhaps we finally learn more about their mutual animus for one another.

Perhaps because it was First Contact Day, I found the panel about First Contact to be quite illuminating, including a great story of how Alice Krige auditioned for the part of the now iconic Borg Queen and how Jonathan “Two Takes” Frakes got that nickname.

I also found the panel that explored Nichelle Nichols’ impact on screen and behind-the-scenes to be illuminating. I knew about Dr. King’s role in encouraging Nichols to stay in the role of Uhura, but I didn’t know about her work with NASA — and of course there’s some additional personal connections these actors mention.

Finally, while not the only other panel (you can check out the full list they’ve posted on YouTube), I enjoyed the one about Star Trek and comedy.

A Viewing Guide for Star Trek: Enterprise

Back in September, I did a ranking of every episode of every Star Trek series.

But what if you haven’s seen all of the Star Trek series? And what if you’re all ready to binge-watch another series this year?

If you haven’t seen Enterprise, the Trek franchise’s first prequel series, you’re probably not alone. While I have found several people who consider it their favorite, anecdotally, it appears to be the least watched series outside of the original animated one.

And I understand. The first two seasons are tough going a lot of the time. The theme song never gets better (except for briefly in season 4). However, as with all Trek, Enterprise –by and large– ages pretty darn well and scratches some itches you didn’t know you have about Andorians, Vulcans, and the founding of the United Federation of Planets.

The following list cuts 44 of the 98 episodes out of the mix, giving you enough grounding with the characters in the first two seasons to better enjoy the increased continuity and worldbuilding of the final two seasons.

If you find you really are enjoying the series, you can always catch up on those missing episodes in the inevitable rewatch for completeness (I’m cutting some episodes I really like, but –if I’m being honest– aren’t necessary for a first watch).

Also, after hearing the opening theme song, feel free to turn down the volume or skip the intro entirely except for “In a Mirror, Darkly” in the fourth season (I love the visuals, I’ve tried and the song doesn’t work for me).

Season One

Skip most of it except:

  • “Broken Bow” (Eps 1 & 2)
  • “The Andorian Incident” (Ep 7)
  • “Silent Enemy” (Ep 12)
  • “Dear Doctor” (Ep 13)
  • “Vox Sola” (Ep 22)
  • “Shockwave, Pt. 1” (Ep 26)

Season Two

Skip most of it except:

  • “Shockwave, Pt. 2” (Ep 1)
  • “Carbon Creek” (Ep 2)
  • “Minefield” (Ep 3)
  • “Vanishing Point” (Ep 10)
  • “The Breach” (Ep 21)
  • “Cogenitor” (Ep 22)
  • “The Expanse” (Ep 26)

Season Three

Watch most of it, except:

  • “Extinction” (Ep 3)
  • “Exile” (Ep 6)
  • “Similitude” (Ep 10)
  • “Doctor’s Orders” (Ep 16)

Season Four

Watch most of it, except:

  • “Daedalus” (Ep 10)
  • “These Are the Voyages…” (Ep 22)

As per the showrunner, the true series finale is “Terra Prime,” episode 21.

There you go! A Star Trek binge-fest that can easily fit into the rest of the year.

(Note: I did this one as a favor to someone who had meant to watch the series, but couldn’t get into it and have since been told by several people that they were in the same boat (or NX-class starship?). If people think I should do viewing guides for other series, let me know!)

Every Episode of Every Star Trek Series, Ranked

As long-time readers of this blog know (all seven or nine), I am a bit of a Star Trek fan, as may be deduced from my manic series Crisis of Infinite Star Treks alone.

Cue theme music!

Where that series delves into fannish hand-wringing and minutiae, it did remind my of how much I enjoy Star Trek in its seemingly infinite combinations. I wanted to do something special for its official 50th anniversary, but life has intervened (quantum filaments, holodeck mishaps, Borg incursions… the usual).

So what better way to express rampant fandom while looking back at the history of Star Trek than to rate each of its 700+ episodes? Think of it as a gift of the pandemic (well, for those of us in Sector 001).

Regardless, doing a retrospective of previous TV Trek seemed appropriate before now… and by the time I was fully invested in rewatching and ranking everything, new TV series started appearing (and may never abate). Yes, Lower Decks, the next seasons, of Discovery and Picard, and who knows how many other series will all find their way into the rankings ’cause I’m as foolish as Stamets wanting to do one more jump.

Oh what I wouldn’t give for a fortuitous temporal anomaly right now.

Anyway: to the links! (Not great links, perhaps, but links none-the-less)

Rigorous and logical

The Methodology
The short version? Every TV series (even the original animated one) is in. I had to make command decisions on how to judge two-parters and continuing storyline episodes, so I did. Movies are not included.

Time for peer review!

How to Rank ‘Em Yourself
Even an honest Vulcan will tell you their logic is susceptible to mortal foibles as emotions and other intangibles creep into their calculations. It could be that ranking Star Trek episodes objectively is a no-win scenario, but tell me your Kobayashi Maru solution in the comments, whether it’s the top 10, the whole list, or anything in between (be civil, please).

What if you Object, Dislike, or Outright Hate My Rankings?
No self-respecting Starfleet captain nor honorable Klingon commander would take such injustice lying down. Do something about it!

Is judging better in the original Klingon? I guess we’ll find out.

The Lists

Re-watching (and in some cases, watching) all 700+ episodes of Star Trek took an inordinate amount of time over the past few years, so there’s no way I wasn’t going to comment on everything, including both spoilers… and a certain amount of irreverence. If you’re not ready for potential spoilers and snark, stick to the links marked “episode names only.”

(As alluded above, these lists will be updated as new episodes premiere.
The lists below include all episodes for all series before July 2020)

The Whole Enchilada (All Series)
With Comments (includes possible spoilers & snark) | Episodes names only

Star Trek (The Original Series or TOS)
With Comments (includes possible spoilers & snark) | Episodes names only

Star Trek (The Animated Series or TAS)
With Comments (includes possible spoilers & snark) | Episodes names only

Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG)
With Comments (includes possible spoilers & snark) | Episodes names only | Viewing Guide

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9)
With Comments (includes possible spoilers & snark) | Episodes names only

Star Trek: Voyager (VOY)
With Comments (includes possible spoilers & snark) | Episodes names only

Enterprise (later Star Trek: Enterprise or ENT)
With Comments (includes possible spoilers & snark) | Episodes names only
Viewing Guide

Star Trek: Discovery (DSC)Up through the first two seasons
With Comments (includes possible spoilers & snark) | Episodes names only

Star Trek: Short Treks (ST)
With Comments (includes possible spoilers & snark) | Episodes names only

Star Trek: Picard (PIC)Up through the first season
With Comments (includes possible spoilers & snark) | Episodes names only

Star Trek: Lower Decks (LD)
(To be added ideally before season three.)

Star Trek: Prodigy (PRO)
(Ideally, to be added in 2022)

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (SNW)
(To be added after season one completes, so… maybe 2023?)

I hope reading these lists reminds you of some of your favorites, encourages discussion, and maybe prompts you to a check out an episode –or a series– you may have overlooked.

In whatever you do, live long and prosper… unless it’s breeding tribbles. One way or another, that will probably end badly.

Star Trek Fandom: Generations

Readers know I have an abiding interest in Star Trek (as evidenced in part by my previous series of posts, Crisis of Infinite Star Treks).

So it should come as no surprise I happily devoured the data and geekery on display in Keith Wilson’s Medium entry last month all about Star Trek fandom likes and dislikes.

From over 3,500 responses, he breaks down Trek fans’ likes and dislikes of the various series and by different generations, with Millenials and Gen X being the most represented. Apparently, he’ll have a second installment of results coming after the season finale of Picard, so I’ll post about that too.

Once more unto the Trek breach…

I’m going to do one last post looking forward to this Thursday’s launch of Star Trek: Picard.

The first link is to an excellent article by David Itzkoff in the New York Times about the future of Star Trek. It covers similar ground as my last Crisis of Infinite Star Treks post, but, you know, it’s a journalistic feature article with first-person interviews vs. my Internet-based observations, so I think many of you will find it illuminating. I especially like how Itzkoff weaves exploring the corporate priorities with the personal passions in getting Picard made. Star Trek has always come about thanks to some zeal from its creators.

I would say in answer to the articles title question “Can ‘Star Trek’ Chart a Way Forward?,” that Trek is in a similar position as it was when they were getting ready to launch Deep Space Nine. They have an audience for Trek, some Trek fans are unconvinced, and they want to expand the franchise. Unlike DS9, I think there’s a much more palpable sense of excitement vs. the “Sure, I guess we’ll check it out” attitude of that series launch. Picard has gone from “who’s that bald guy in the lycra uniform that’s not Kirk?” back in 1987 to a Trek legend in his own right (and deservedly so I might subjectively add). So here’s one last look at teasers before the Internet verdicts come tumbling in.

Crisis of Infinite Star Treks: All Good Things…

This is the 32nd and final entry in a surprisingly long series of posts about Star Trek’s future and its fandom called Crisis of Infinite Star Treks. It was… fun.

That’s not the finale shot you were thinking of? Patience…

Way back in November 2015, I started musing about the state of Star Trek… and I kept on blogging about Trek so much that in 2016, that I retconned those early posts into what has become Crisis of Infinite Star Treks. There have been long posts and shorter ones. This is one of the longer ones (not including all the linked articles and videos, it’s easily over 15 minutes).

It’s also the last one.

That’s because of the unstated premise of the whole series, that the Star Trek franchise was in trouble: the feature films were floundering after an underwhelming response to Beyond, there were no new TV series on the horizon, and many fans were behaving like a bunch of Klingons at a bar that just ran out of bloodwine. This was not something that could be fixed in 47 seconds by reversing the polarity.

Long story short: that premise no longer rings true.

I’m not going to be some stand-in for Captain Archer or Admiral Ramirez saying “the state of Star Trek is strong,” but circumstances have changed to the extent that I have a new premise.

That premise? The Star Trek franchise is doing fine. They have both an audience and a generally positive critical response to the latest show — enough so that the corporate owners of Star Trek are confident enough to expand their Trek offerings into concurrent shows (something we haven’t seen in almost 20 years). By any measure, they are boldly going.

Now, some folks don’t like what the corporate keepers of the Star Trek franchise are doing, which I’ll touch upon. However, the umbrage of a few long-time fans will not puncture said corporate keepers’ belief in the 21st Rule of Acquisition: “Never place friendship above profit.” Oh, they love fans and fandoms, but they’ll go for profit every time. And we, the audience, are benefiting (cue more umbrage).

So what makes me think that Star Trek is doing okay, or “operating within normal parameters?” Read on!

CBS Succeeded with Star Trek: Discovery

If you recall in a previous Crisis of Infinite Star Trek entry, I mused that Star Trek: Discovery was in the precarious position of needing to find a new audience, please old fans, and launch a whole new streaming service.

Okay, technically, CBS All Access has existed since 2014, but CBS executives were up front that they were using the launch of Star Trek: Discovery in 2017 as their incentive to get viewers to sign up.

And it worked.

They had record sign-ups in the wake of the Discovery premiere and, as of earlier this year, over 4 million subscribers. In fact, they had a 2020 goal for streaming subscribers that they’ve already met in 2019.

Now, this isn’t all thanks to Star Trek: Discovery. Like any network (or streaming service) in these content-hungry days, CBS All Access has added a whole bunch of original programming. However, just like Netflix had found success in “flagship shows” like first Orange is the New Black and now Stranger Things and HBO has certainly found with Game of Thrones, Star Trek: Discovery is something execs clearly credit with the streaming service’s success.

CBS All Access was never going to be a “Netflix killer.” That will happen (or not) with the launch of Disney+, Peacock, and Apple‘s offerings (The Mandalorian is reportedly the most popular show in the world right now). Tremors have already been felt in Netflix’s subscriber base in 2019 and it’s a safe bet that all the streaming providers will find where they rank in consumers’ personal hierarchies of content in 2020.

But in terms of content, CBS has a playbook and it’s using it. And Star Trek is a huge part of the playbook.

The naysayers who hate Star Trek: Discovery (and boy howdy, some people hate it) aren’t on the field, aren’t making the calls, and are not a critical mass that has prevented CBS All Access from achieving its millions of additional subscribers.

Multiple Trek TV Series are about to leave spacedock

Unless you’ve been down in a dilithium mine, you know that CBS has been working on new Star Trek series in addition to Discovery, including one that is particularly anticipated:

(Hint: It’s not just because they’re clearly leaning into the notion that Vulcans are Space Elves).

In addition to Picard, they also have one with Michelle Yeoh and Section 31, an animated comedy series with ” one of Starfleet’s least important ships” called Lower Decks, and maybe a series for Nickelodeon.

Having read industry news for some time by the likes of Hollywood Reporter and Variety, I’m used to pie-in-the-sky predictions of “multi-platform content leveraging” and other ridiculous business-speak at the announcement of massive development deals. The difference here is that both Picard and Lower Decks are in production. Both should premiere this year, presumably also with the third season of Discovery. Star Trek is used to not only having multiple series on the air, but also having a vast array of tie-in novels, comics, and so on. They’ve already leveraged “multi-platform content” and anything they’ve lost from being literally “on the air” in the era of streaming over broadcast, they’re more than trying to make up with social media and online presences.

In other words, CBS was testing the waters with Discovery, decided it was fine, and decided to rebuild the fleet.

You can learn more of what was revealed at San Diego Comic Con in this recap from StarTrek.com and also check out this panel video:

(note: the video above is about 40 minutes).

CBS and Viacom are back together

As most of you may only be vaguely aware, there was a split between the Star Trek film rights and the Star Trek TV rights due to a split between CBS Corporation and Viacom. I mean, that’s a really simple summary, but, as of August 2019, the companies decided to re-merge.

Along with the fact that all the Star Trek rights are now very much under one corporate roof (ultimately), this does end a host of weird conspiracy theories perpetuated online about how different this Trek could be from that Trek, etc. — none of which I ever heard from actual legal experts.

(I’m not saying that it’s a requirement that all intellectual property lawyers are Star Trek fans, but I will say that an inordinate number of intellectual property lawyers I know are Star Trek fans — and all intellectual property lawyers I’ve met, Star Trek fans or not, appear to love explaining the more non-intuitive aspects of intellectual property law).

So if you’ve avoided wacky conspiracy theories about the “legality of canon” and bizarre percentages thus far, congratulations on avoiding Internet crazy! Now go and enjoy some Trek!

General fandom remains grumpy

Okay, so one thing you might not be able to avoid is the current state of fandom. That’s not just for Star Trek, but for just about every bit of pop culture you can imagine. Fandom has gone mainstream, including some ugly bits. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably encountered this toxicity in one or more realms.

I mean, I had a good chuckle at Steven Porfiri’s 2018 piece in The Hard Times noting the increased unemployment in “pop culture gatekeepers.” Of course, satirical takes are fun and perhaps necessary, but that does not seem to have stemmed the tide of “rage lemmings,” which, admittedly, appears to be a feature, not a bug, for how social media is engineered to operate these days. (I don’t know who first used the term “rage lemmings,” but it’s a perfect term for this kind of umbrage).

And besides the sadly now garden-variety Internet outrage, there’s the perceived ownership and entitlement. To date, over 1.8 million people signed a petition to “remake Game of Thrones season 8 with competent writers.” Statistically, they can’t all have just been “blowing off steam” on the Internet or realizing “redoing” a whole television season is a crazypants idea from the get-go. Some of them must have believed HBO would acquiesce. Some Star Wars fans similarly wanted Last Jedi all but erased from existence Thanos-style. Some of them probably think that’s possible some way some how. But there’s no reality stone that will help them change this timeline where they’re so terribly disappointed in a creative work. The main action a fan can take is the same action they can always take.

Don’t watch it.

If the show or movie is sure to disappoint you, don’t waste your time.

Is that action disappointing in and of itself? Possibly. The difference nowadays is that there is so much more to see. We’re in a golden age of television, and if films or comics or music are one’s fancy, there’s plenty of great stuff to be found there too. It just might not be all the stuff you loved before.

If art is great, you get something different out of it as you age. But whether or not you get something out of a particular piece of art at every age, your relationship with art will change. I view the character of Batman differently than I did when I first read The Dark Knight Returns some 30 years ago. Heck, I view The Dark Knight Returns differently than when I did 30 years ago because of all my life experiences. But here’s the thing: all the comic writers of Batman in the past 30 years have almost certainly read The Dark Knight Returns and absorbed it and translated it into what they want to write about Batman here and now. And their relationship with Batman, by definition, is different.

The end result? You just might not be able to read every Batman comic anymore, to use an example from Susana Polo’s excellent article in Polygon. In it, she comes to terms with how she engaged with Batman comics as they went in directions that were at odds with her expectations. It’s hard because within the fandom is enthusiasm, ardor, and, yes, love.

You love something, but you don’t own it — and sometimes you walk away from what you love (or loved). Sometimes you have to.

This inability to walk away, or even to admit that –no matter how much the fandom informs your identity– you are not owed anything by the creators, is something that has puzzled a lot of the creators… who are also fans.

For example, George R. R. Martin, the creator of the book series that begat Game of Thrones, started as a fan writing fanzines. He finds both the success of Game of Thrones and the toxic backlash against it surreal.

(Incidentally, if you want much more about Martin’s very fannish odyssey, including his continued fandom for films and classic movie palaces, check out the full 90-minute interview at Maltin on Movies).

Polo and Martin and Maltin among others aren’t the only ones to find that there are particularly virulent and vitriolic strains of fandom these days — and how the Internet may aid and abet said strains. Rob Bricken, former editor at io9 and self-described “professional nerd” has an excellent, autobiographical take on it from September 2019. It’s ironic that, as “nerd culture” is arguably triumphant, there is reason to be embarrassed by one’s nerdiness again (the Rick & Morty “Szechuan Sauce” incident has to be chief among examples).

So what about Star Trek?

I know. I’ve spent many a paragraph just now not discussing Star Trek, but as many of you probably gleaned, I wanted to lay out the landscape of modern fandom and its endemic umbrage, because –boy howdy– is that the same landscape where Star Trek sits.

People hate Star Trek: Discovery. They hate it just as passionately as any the aforementioned hate for Game of Thrones or Star Wars or insufficient Szechuan Sauce. As with many of these hatreds, there’s a mix of old Star Trek fans who really haven’t cottoned to anything since the original series or original cast films, the ones who really don’t like it because of it feels to visually akin to the JJ Abrams films (which are too “pew pew” for their tastes), and the ones who don’t like it because of the visual discontinuity of it being a prequel with way more modern looking production design than the 60s.

Aaaand then there are those who don’t like it for the same old, same old ugly reasons involving a character’s race or gender or both — which you really don’t want to believe exists until you spend a few minutes looking at some comment threads and experience some of the embarrassment that Rob Bricken talked about above.

Perhaps most vexing to those who dislike recent Trek for creative reasons is that those who dislike recent Trek for bigoted reasons frequently cite the same reason creatively displeased fans cite: that the current Trek is not “true Star Trek.”

I sympathize for the earnestly displeased Trek fans (not the bigots), but arguing “true Star Trek” really isn’t the line to draw expecting no one will cross it.

First, unless one owns the intellectual property rights, there’s very little one can do to assert what is or isn’t “true Star Trek” in any way that matters.

(For anyone who doubts this, I am happy to introduce you to some of the aforementioned cheerful intellectual property attorneys who are Star Trek fans, which includes some who aren’t enamored of recent Trek.)

Second, true Star Trek includes Charles Napier as an exuberant singing space hippie.

One might say he’s one of the good old boys…

And actually, he’s not the only one engaged in cringe-worthy singing.

(According to some, this is the greatest moment in DS9.)

In other words, I think we can all take the fervor around “true Star Trek” down a notch.

I understand a lot of the critiques people have raised about more recent Trek even if I don’t agree with all the critiques. Not the bigotry, though. To quote Captain Kirk: “leave any bigotry in your in your quarters. There’s no room for it on the bridge.”

Fans of Star Trek are presumably ready to watch Star Trek because they want to see some of the same things they loved in the previous Trek incarnations. And if they’re not seeing anything to love, nothing that they loved in a previous version of Trek, it’s not illogical to ask, “Is this Trek?”

It’s also not illogical to conclude, “This is not my kind of Star Trek.”

Take, for example, the Michael Bay Transformers films. As near as I can tell, the pop culture cognoscenti and film critics in general have deemed them trash. Having seen the first film, I tend to agree, despite my general appreciation for John Turturro, Glenn Morshower, and seeing an AC-130 gunship in action.

It absolutely is Transformers and I don’t care for it. I could rage about the injustice of massive entertainment conglomerates ignoring me and my one data point of negativity — or I could get on with my life, perhaps revisiting the Transformers films when my expectations are appropriately managed. For example, I heard Bumblebee was pretty good and one of my kids was interested as well, so we might check that out some time.

Note that, in the case of Transformers, film critics and pop culture mavens have my back. They don’t like Transformers either. In fact, I haven’t heard any Transformers fans laud the films. But even with hundreds, nay probable millions of negative data points about the Transformers movies, they have continued to be commercially successful. Somebody likes them otherwise they wouldn’t make money. In fact, several somebodies must have watched every single one of Michael Bay’s Transformers films and liked them. That would make them, wait for it, Transformers fans.

Readers who have hung with me up until now will recall that one criterion I mentioned above was the millions of subscribers Star Trek: Discovery has arguably attracted to CBS All Access. The people who decide whether it’s responsible for such a feat, the CBS executives, have decided it has. That’s led to season two of Discovery, soon season three (shooting began in July 2019), and, of course, Picard, Lower Decks, and the other nascent series.

Now, people may rightly point out that the size of an audience does not necessarily correlate to how good a TV show might be. Star Trek fans may also point out how an honest-to-goodness letter-writing campaign helped keep the original series on the air… and expanded love of Star Trek in syndication and in the conventions in the 70s help give rise to the motion picture and, basically, all that followed.

In other words: fandom matters. Fan support matters. Studios, CBS executives in this immediate case, should listen to fans. All true. And in fact the executives and showrunners do listen to the fans in this case (as evidenced by various touches in Discovery, season two — and arguably the very existence of Picard).

But they don’t listen to fans to the exclusion of everything else… and they never did. Fan fervor didn’t see the first Star Trek series complete its original five-year mission. Robert Wise and the creative team behind the first motion picture were able craft a story beloved by many an old school Star Trek fan as “true Trek” despite an insane theatrical deadline. That didn’t prevent executives from radically changing course for the sequel. Many a fan would have none but the original cast when word of a new Star Trek series popped up in the mid-80s, but we still got The Next Generation.

Time and again, Star Trek fans have made their voices heard and time and again, the powers-that-be went ahead with something some fans were certain was going to be awful. It’s not like they’ve always been firing on all cylinders.

Sometimes they go to warp 10…

However, some of those fans’ furrowed eyebrows have been aimed at what turns out to be Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine. In fact, I know Star Trek fans that don’t like any of those Trek iterations.

Each new version of Trek is trying something different — and it’s rare that I find anyone who likes all the iterations. In fact, it’s highly likely that I and millions of other Trek fans will not like all of the new iterations. At the same time, it’s highly likely someone is going to experience Star Trek for the first time through one of those series and that will be “their Trek.”

Does it bother me knowing that someone is going to love the comedic hijinks of Star Trek: Lower Decks yet have absolutely no time for the rest of Trek? Would it irk me if they stopped watching the original series’ “The Doomsday Machine,” TNG’s “Chain of Command,” or DS9’s “In the Pale Moonlight” because they “were too serious?” Of course it would. But that’s my problem. They get to like what they like.

I did a ridiculously fannish “research project” of sorts in the past few years, rewatching –and in some cases watching for the first time– every single episode of every series of Star Trek. And I asked people about their favorites.

Guess what? Every single series, including some that aren’t invoked as often, like Voyager, Enterprise, and even the animated series, had its champions. Every iteration of Star Trek has someone standing proudly and saying, “that’s my Trek.”

People get to like what they like and they still get to be fans. Is it really any surprise that Discovery has fans?

Yet if you go strolling through social media amid fan groups or click on a fan news YouTube video, you’ll find fans who hate every inch of it and are eager to latch onto anything that can validate their antipathy. Changes in personnel? Must mean cancellation is soon! Emmy nomination for the title sequence? That’s because the rest of it sucks! I’m actually not going to link to these items because they’re easy enough to find if you want. However, it’s best to bear in mind that these are the people I talked about long ago as inhabitants of the Briar Patch, to make an oblique Star Trek reference. They like the inside baseball/Parrises squares nature of their conversations and either don’t want or can’t get out of their carefully built echo chambers.

How to best describe this? Well, the more benign inhabitants of these “Briar Patch” realms of thought get upset when they ask a question about Star Trek that has an obvious real-world answer, but no readily available in-universe one. So, for example, why did the uniforms change so radically from The Motion Picture to the Wrath of Khan? The actual answer is, naturally, that Nicholas Meyer, the director of Khan didn’t like the old costumes (and he wasn’t alone) and wanted new ones. He’s said so on at least one director’s DVD commentary.

I understand that it’d be fun, even cool, to have an elegant or clever reason that the fictional Starfleet changed the uniforms. It would help with the worldbuilding which is part of the fun of getting into any speculative fiction universe, science-fiction, fantasy, et cetera. But sometimes such in-universe explanations aren’t forthcoming because they simply aren’t a priority for the people making the show. Some reason on the uniform change may have been given in a Star Trek novel or other work which I’m unaware of, but we can enjoy Wrath of Khan without ever knowing that reason.

But for some fans, they can’t. It’s a missing worldbuilding piece whose absence tasks them. It tasks them and they will have it. They won’t give it up. In fact, if I had a slip of latinum for every social media thread where a Briar Patch denizen could not abide by real-world practicality and priorities, I could buy that moon off of Quark’s cousin. They must know. They are entitled to know. By pulling away the curtain that Star Trek is fictional is, in and of itself, rather offensive.

Now, add to this fan ire the notion that their experience, their viewpoint of Star Trek is the ‘correct’ one. It’s correct because of their level of knowledge, their time being a fan, and their outright devotion. Thank goodness not all Star Trek fans (or even Briar Patch denizens) operate this way. But for the commenters who produce volumes on how horrible Discovery or the J.J. Abrams films or whatnot are, that premise of knowing what the “true Trek” is –of even being empowered to be the judge of what “true Trek” is– comes through again and again. They hold that truth to be self-evident.

To point out that Star Trek is an economic entity as well as an object of fandom is to provide a wholly unwelcome real-world answer to their in-universe questions and longings. That they have no intellectual property rights to their object of fandom is an affront to how they want to interact with it. That decisions will be made in making Star Trek based on economic reasons is sinful. That people can love the current outputs of Star Trek that they do not love is basically heretical.

Into this contentious environment of Star Trek fandom comes Picard. Thomas Bacon has a wonderful article touching on Picard over at Screenrant.com. In it, he explores the divisions in Star Trek fandom and what avenue Picard may offer to fans disinterested to downright disgusted with the more recent offerings.

I find it ironic that, as sure as some people will keep hating Discovery, its success has helped usher in shows like Picard which promises to be a favorite of many a Star Trek fan. Myself? I’m ecstatic we’ll be exploring the prime universe past Nemesis and am hoping for notes of some of the best of Picard’s Next Generation episodes, with more than a few hints of Shakespeare.

And what about Axanar?

For readers who don’t know, Prelude to Axanar was a quite enjoyable 20-some minute Star Trek fan film that was released back in 2014. It featured professional actors, including Star Trek alumni, as well as some nice visual effects.

Over a million dollars was raised for a feature film version. For a variety of reasons, CBS/Paramount filed a lawsuit with the makers in 2015 and they settled in early 2017. The settlement allowed the makers of said fan film to make up to two 15-minute installments albeit without some significant members of the cast and crew who were involved with Prelude — who have since moved on.

I happily share the link to the original short above and would be open to check out any shorts the remaining team might make — though over two years since the settlement, they’re still busy raising money. The over a million dollars has evidently been spent (if allegations made in court documents are to be believed, many of those dollars went to personal expenses).

For anyone wanting to know more, I caution you that this does mean stepping squarely into the Briar Patch. You can read about my first delve into the controversies around Axanar back in 2016. As a good number of my entries here in the Crisis series were dedicated to Axanar, I felt I should close out thoughts on this topic as well, though my most linked and visited article, “The Naked Greed Time” pretty much sums up my disgust at it all. Suffice it to say, my disgust has not abated. In fact, there’s additional financial skullduggery that may have occurred.

I appreciate the folks over at Axamonitor (both its own site and a presence on Facebook) for continuing to monitor and call shenanigans on both the Axafaithful and some of the aforementioned rage-based fans. I need less umbrage in my life, and fan rage is something of an abyss for me, so much like those Transformers movies, I’m going to try and limit my contact. I suspect many of you will want to do the same.

The sky is no longer the limit

The wonderful note to end on? For me –and I hope for many of you– we don’t need to wallow in umbrage. This new year should bring us a host of new Star Trek to enjoy. We can simply be Star Trek fans.

Here’s another aspect of Star Trek fans that bears remembering: Star Trek has been made by Star Trek fans since the original series. Lucille Ball was a fan of the idea enough to override her board of directors to make Star Trek a reality. Michael Chabon, behind the first season of Picard, is more or less a lifelong fan. Fans often do justice to the objects of their fandom. However, just like the writers of Batman discussed above, their takeaways from Star Trek might be different from yours or mine. Their execution of said takeaways may not be perfect. In fact, I’d be surprised if they were. But, for me, they are always welcome.

I think of what J.J. Abrams (cue fan umbrage!) said in a recent interview about Star Wars, “

I don’t know anyone who has a spouse or a partner or any family member or any friend, who loves and agrees with every single thing that that person is and does. We have to return, I think, to nuance and acceptance. And so I feel like, as a Star Wars fan, do I love every single thing about each of the movies? No. But do I love Star Wars? Hell yes, I do.

J.J. Abrams, Esquire, November 2019

I know there are people who are so intent on hating this particular messenger, that they’ll ignore the message. Don’t be one of them. Fandom is mainstream and there’s a lot of stuff out there to love. For this new year, let people like what they like… and perhaps, find a few new things to like yourself. For myself, I’m guessing that will include Star Trek.

There it is…

All Ready to Feel the Power of the Dark Crystal

Modern fandom is a tricky thing. Geek culture is ascendant in so many ways, often in service of mining intellectual property (IP) to find that latest multi-billion dollar franchise. And corporations appear so risk averse towards the potential market downside of new ideas that they will bet on IP, any IP, over people. At least, based on what I read in trade news about how studios are hungry for any known quantity, my premise is a studio executive will green light the next Battleship a dozen times before they say yes to developing the next Inception.

Thankfully, the studios also appear to be giving the keys of their IP kingdoms to people who love the originals more often than not. No longer will we have David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury. (Well, probably not, until late 90s nostalgia kicks in).

So when I heard word that there was going to be a prequel series to The Dark Crystal, a calculated move to hit us Gen Xers right in the feels, I was both excited and wary at the same time. And then they dropped this:

Now, for those of you who want to go deeper, there’s also a nine-minute “behind-the-scenes” promo that has a lot of the actors and producers involved. It’s here clearly to get one excited about the upcoming series

Do what you will this Labor Day weekend. I know some of my time will be spent returning to another place, another time… in the age of wonder!

Worldcons and World Conquest (by way of Pop Culture)

I’ve never been to a Worldcon, but I’m thinking I ought to for when it’s in my backyard.

George R. R. Martin, however, has been to just about every Worldcon he could for several decades running.

This year’s WorldCon is in Dublin, so the Irish Times caught up with him and he mused on WorldCons and fandom and all sorts of things.

If you want more of Martin musing on his career and art, you can also catch an interview of him on Maltin on Movies.

So Say We All… Well, Except for Those Chuckleheads

I touched on notions of fandom with my Crisis of Infinite Star Treks series and certainly toxic fandom has been more on people’s minds in the past year or so in any case (see, for example, these pieces on CNET and in Wired).

So it was interesting to read Ryan Britt’s piece in Den of Geek talking with the writers of So Say We All, a new book about the Battlestar Galactica remake… including the fact that it was not just a remake, but a “re-imagining.”

There’s obviously more in the book than just the subject of fandom, but that’s the focus of the article. Certainly, BSG –as it’s often abbreviated– provided ample opportunity for toxic fan uproar from its short yet expansive stint on TV. I’m sure had it been made nowadays, the uproar and venting would have been omnipresent. Much of what they pulled off was nothing less than exceptional, but let’s just say I don’t want to be in a room of BSG fans discussing how the series ended. That’s just going to get unpleasant.